|Index||6 reviews in total|
The subject matter feels a bit too lightly treated and the technical elements of the film are rather ordinary, but 'Rabbit, Run' has some good ideas, especially in regards to detaching from and trying to escape unhappiness. James Caan is good in the lead and the supporting cast is strong, with Arthur Hill and Jack Albertson particular highlights, plus another solid performance in the same year from Carrie Snodgress of 'Diary of a Mad Housewife'. It is the acting and the occasional good idea that keep this film alive, and it might not be a brilliant piece of cinema, but it does have enough good about it to be a satisfying watch.
An almost satisfying movie experience. The seldom seen film version of
John Updike's novel has equal parts of good and bad. There are scenes
that suffer from poor editing and dramatic continuity, especially for
instance the first time Rabbit goes to Ruth's apartment, the scene
feels rushed as though something was cut out to keep it moving and it
loses coherence. A few other scenes are like this. I would guess the
film might have been much longer, but it was cut down for unknown
reasons. All the performances are good. James Caan has a challenge with
Rabbit and he rises to it, you can't despise him for his actions and
can almost understand his feelings. Same goes for Janice (Carrie
Snodgress, very good) and certainly Ruth, played by the excellent
Anjanette Comer. Jack Albertson deserves special mention for his sad
characterization. Technically the film is uneven, with some pedestrian
direction alongside some beautifully shot and staged scenes. The
Reading, PA location is used very well and it's a strong part of the
The absolute, single WORST thing about this film is the soundtrack. Godawful, uninspired late sixties rock in place of film music. In 1969 I can assume the producers wanted the film to be 'hip' with current musical styles, but the songs and singers are so dreadful they nearly ruin the film for me. Not only is the music beyond terrible, but it often surges loudly into a quiet scene, adding nothing but irritation. The actors make and save this film. It's worth seeing for them. In finely played supporting roles are familiar faces from TV: Carmen Matthews, Don Keefer, Josephine Hutchinson, and Arthur Hill of course is excellent as always.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of those times when the film completely loses the spark of the
novel on which it's based. John Updike's wonderful prose descriptions
and inner dialogues made Rabbit's "run" a framework for the angst and
aimlessness of a young adult whose best days are behind him. Instead,
now the story is about how James Caan cheats on his wife.
The movie version came out in 1970, ten years after the novel, and ten years too late for the plot to make sense: the sexual revolution of the 60's robs the story of its tension. By this point, Updike had already written the sequel, Rabbit Redux, taking his protagonist up to the moment.
Updike fans may want to see the movie as a curiosity piece, but I wouldn't recommend it.
Strong performances, especially James Caan at the height of his career, save this film from being a complete disaster. The problem is that the 1950's themes (Updike's novel is set in 1956) seem out of place framed within the 'New Hollywood' of American film making in 1970. Choppy editing and a heavy 70's electronica soundtrack distract from what would otherwise be a fairly strong representation of the new wave of film making (Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Bonnie & Clyde) portraying a harsher and more critical view of middle class America. Caan's portrayal of the selfish and immature 'Rabbit' is sympathetic and charming. He is surrounded by a supporting cast that portray hapless, stupid or unlikable people who interfere in his efforts to find fulfillment. These characters are one dimensional and serve only as a means to justify the angst and frustration of the protagonist. (A recurring plot device in the American 'New Wave' cinema.) Worth the watch for fans of Caan or films of that era.
Jack Smight directed this unexciting adaptation of John Updike's book about a feckless husband and father in small town Pennsylvania, married to a pregnant, alcoholic drudge, who bolts from his responsibilities. Although new to the screen, James Caan does quite well in the central role, turning this flaky material (dotted with shockable language, which was new at the time, and talk of sexual kinks) into an acting showcase. Caan gives his Rabbit a sense of humor bourn of desperation and an edge that isn't so much angry as it is internally combative. Updike, the ultimate girl-ogling, horny heterosexual, doesn't allow his characters to have much fun, and this dampens the movie as well. Smight blamed the poorly-received results on producer-screenwriter Howard B. Kreitsek, who reedited Smight's final cut, and threatened to remove his name from the credits. "Rabbit, Run" isn't terrible but, aside from Caan's casting, it isn't anything memorable or dynamic. Carrie Snodgress is poorly-used as Rabbit's wife, though Jack Albertson (in the basically unplayable role of Rabbit's former basketball coach) gets stuck with the worst of it. *1/2 from ****
After I read Rabbit Run and Rabbit Redux, I wanted to see how many
Updike novels had been made into movies. His writing does not seem
cinematic. I was surprised to find that, in addition to The Witches of
Eastwick, Rabbit Run had, in fact, been made into a movie. And starring
one of the leading actors of the late 60's, early 70s, James Caan, as
well as Carrie Snodgrass, best known for Diary of a Mad Housewife.
Also, in a major role, Jack Albertson, later renowned for Chico and the
Rabbit Run, the movie, is unfairly neglected. The central role of Harry Angstrom is fully realized by James Caan as a guy you sympathize with and despise. The events of Harry's life are played out to suitably tacky late-60's pop music, and filmed in John Updike's hometown of Reading, Pa. Reading looks even sadder than Updike described it, but the gritty streets work well for the story. They are unpleasant and dangerous and claustrophobic, and if you were to live there, in this small industrial city walled in by high hills, you might feel like you're trapped, like Rabbit was.
James Caan was somewhat unique among actors of that time: I think of Dustin Hoffman and Elliot Gould as being the icons of the era, the not-really-handsome lovable Jewish schmos. James Caan is a Jewish schmo, but he's also a hunk, with broad shoulders and a big chest and a seductive face. He's conventionally sexy, and women fall for him easily, but he still is an outsider, he's got issues, lots of issues, just like Dustin and Elliot. A super-schmo.
There was one scene in the book, which I will NOT reveal here, that was harrowing and an amazing display of the author's power with his pen. That scene translates frighteningly to the screen, although I thought the filmmakers could have gone much further in depicting the horror. If ever a remake is made, THAT scene should be full-out Grand-Guignol.
It's a satisfying flick, and it makes you long for the sequel that was never made. I read elsewhere that this film never even opened in New York, the studio thought so little of it. If the éminences grises of the Film Forum or Anthology Film Archives or Film Society of Lincoln Center are reading this, please consider reviving this film, and giving it a proper New York opening.
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